As the world acquaints itself with Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic,” the Oklahoman “Tiger King” made famous by a recently released Netflix documentary, former heavyweight world champion Mike Tyson has admitted he was “wrong” for keeping two tigers at his Las Vegas residence years ago.
Tyson, 53, said that although he used to go so far as to sleep with his tigers, he has since realized he never should have tried to “domesticate” them. He no longer owns the animals.
“I was foolish,” said Tyson, on an Instagram Live with Fat Joe. “There’s no way you can domesticate these cats 100 percent. No way that’s going to happen. They’ll kill you by accident, especially when you’re playing rough with them, you’re punching them back. They get hyped up, hit you back and you’re dead.
“I’m just happy I educated myself. I was doing the wrong s—. I shouldn’t have had them in my house, believing they were domesticated. I was wrong.”
Tyson said he actually came into possession of two tiger cubs while serving a prison sentence. An acquaintance informed him of the opportunity to legally buy big cats, and Tyson, who was involved in some of the highest-grossing boxing matches of the 1990s, took him up on the idea.
“I was talking to one of my friends who I bought cars from, and he was saying one of my friends owed him money,” Tyson said. “He said, ‘If he doesn’t pay, I’m going to take some of these cars and trade them in for animals,’ and I said, ‘What kind of animals?’ He said, ‘Horses and stuff.’ And he said, ‘They have some nice tigers and lions, too. If you got one of those, that would be cool in your Ferrari.’ I said, ‘That’s true. Why don’t you order me a couple and I’ll be getting out in a couple months.’
“So, when I got out, I came home and I had two cubs.”
Tyson went on to share a story of one of the tigers attacking a female trespasser, and him paying her $250,000 “when [he] saw what the tiger did to her hand.”
Tyson’s tigers were even made into a major plot point in the 2009 movie “The Hangover,” in which the main characters steal one of his tigers and are forced to return it.
Netflix’s seven-part documentary has been the source of thousands of memes on social media since its release this year. The film’s subject, Maldonado-Passage, is currently serving a federal prison sentence on two counts of murder for hire.